Kite: You're In The Loop - we're here to discuss the ups, downs and sideways of the sport of figure skating, and maybe give you +5 GOE along the way. Let’s introduce this week’s hosts.
Kat: Hey, I’m Kat and I’m currently recovering from Four Continents AKA from a cold that I caught screaming in an ice rink all week. You can find me on Twitter @kattwts.
Evie: Hi I’m Evie and I started off thinking Four Continents was extremely cursed, but it all turned out decently okay in the end. I’m on Twitter @doubleflutz.
Kite: Hi, I’m Kite and I completely wrecked my sleep schedule to watch Four Continents live and it was worth it in the end. You can find me on Twitter @mossyzinc.
Evie: Okey-dokey! So we've got a couple of things of figure skating related news that have happened in the last week, mostly just results of other competitions that have happened.
Kat: First off, we have the Russian junior nationals, so the winners of Russian Junior Nats for Ladies was Alexandra Trusova, for Men's, we have Daniil Samsonov, for Dance, Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko, and for Pairs Anastasia Mishina and Alexander Galiamov.
Evie: And from those results, Russia announced the team for the Junior World Championships next month. So for Ladies, they're going to be sending Alexandra Trusova, Alena Kostornaia, and Anna Shcherbakova. For Men, they're gonna be sending Petr Gumennik, Roman Savosin, and Alexey Erokhov. For Dance, they're gonna be sending Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko, Arina Ushakova and Maxim Nekrasov, and Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva and Nikita Nazarov, and for Pairs, they're gonna be sending Anastasia Mishina and Alexander Galiamov, Polina Kostiukovich and Dmitri Ialin, and Apollinaria Panfilova and Dmitri Rylov, so it's gonna be a pretty crazy Junior Worlds with this great team.
Kite: And in Russian seniors, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva won the Dragon Cup this past week, so she had to sit out the European championships unfortunately because she was recovering from pneumonia that she caught after the Grand Prix Final, so this is expected to be her last competition before Worlds, which we assume that she's gonna be selected for, but we don't actually know yet.
Evie: We hope that she's gonna be selected for.
Kite: She should be selected.
Evie: She should, yeah.
Kat: In addition to Four Continents, we also had the Bavarian Open this week, the winners were for Ladies, Satoko Miyahara, for Men, Koshiro Shimada, for Dance, Anastasia Shpilevaya and Grigory Smirnov, and for Pairs, Laura Barquero and Aritz Maestu.
Evie: And then France has also announced its team for Worlds, for Ladies they're sending Laurine Lecavelier, for Men they're sending Kevin Aymoz, for Dance they're sending Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron and Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac, and for Pairs they're sending Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres.
Kite: And finally, SafeSport has confirmed that it will no longer be investigating the allegations into John Coughlin, who took his life last month following some allegations of sexual misconduct, and we want to give that case the attention that it deserves, of course, so we'll be talking about all the proceedings and information regarding that in another minisode which will be forthcoming.
-end segment- 3:29
START: Four Continents 2019
Evie: So, this week we're gonna be talking all about the Four Continents Championships, which happened this week, we had Euros just a couple weeks ago and now we're back at it again with another big championship.
Kat: Yes, finally.
Evie: Finally. And it was in Anaheim, in the states, and Kat, you actually went to go see the competition live.
Kat: Yes, it was so much fun. I had such a great time there, honestly. I was a little bit afraid because I was kinda traveling solo this time and I didn't really have anyone to super hang out with or travel with, so I had a really really great time meeting a lot of new people, and meeting a bunch of skaters as well, and handing out flower crowns, it was super fun. And it was also really fun that a lot of people could spot me in the audience, I got so many mentions on Twitter that they could spot me in the audience, which I thought was really adorable.
Kite: Yeah, you were so easily recognizable because a) you were sitting in the very first row by the skaters' entrance and also you were wearing a hat the whole time, and so every time we saw you on the stream we were just like "Kat! Kat!"
Evie: "We see you!"
Kat: I got really lucky this time around. I think I had the perfect seat for handing out gifts and flower crowns because, like you said, I was literally the very first seat closest to the skaters' entrance, literally right next to the Zamboni and sweepers.
Evie: Very good seats for gift-giving.
Kat: It was perfect for gift-giving. Because people could spot me immediately and that's the one corner that all the skaters migrate to, because the other side, the judge's side, was mostly empty because I think it was mostly for guests and the skaters' seats, so the side opposite the judges was the more populated side.
Evie: Yeah, we noticed that when we were watching on the stream that the crowd seemed pretty empty, especially for an event that was in the States, especially on the judge's side of things it was basically near-empty, at least to us on the stream it looked like that.
Kat: Yeah no it definitely looked really empty from my side too, but yeah all the seats for the spectators seemed to be opposite the judge's side. I'm not exactly sure why the judge's side was so empty, I just remember seeing a bunch of stickers on the seats on the judge's side and I wasn't sure if they were just reserved or what.
Evie: Well, tickets for Four Continents were pretty expensive, weren't they?
Kat: Oh, yeah, they definitely were. I only got my tickets because I bought them half-priced.
Kite: Yeah, they were like six hundred dollars, I think, retail, for the best all-event seats. But also you have to remember that a lot of the events took place during the week, in the middle of the afternoon, so a lot of people can't get off work or school to go and watch figure skating, so you definitely saw that the audience was a lot fuller during the Friday and Saturday and Sunday events.
Kat: The men's and ladies' Free Skates had a lot of people attending. The Pairs Short Program had almost no one. I was really sad. But yeah, overall, it was a really great event, I thought. Barring some unforeseen security struggles.
Kite: Yeah, what the hell was that?
Kat: I don't know. Honestly, I think that it was just mostly the event organizers versus the Honda Center, their policies not being in line and not fully understanding what figure skating competitions entail, because I had people fight me about the banners on the second day of practice, but then someone told me "oh hey, word on the street is that tomorrow they're gonna let you bring the banners in so bring the banners tomorrow." I still had someone fight me again, on Thursday, which is the first day of competition, but then I went to talk to a security guard right before the event started after practice, I was like oh I'm gonna go to my seat, I want to go hang these banners, he was like okay we'll let you hang them at 11:30, which is like an hour before the competition starts, and I was like wait you're gonna let us hang the banners? Before they told us they wouldn't let us hang banners at all!
Evie: Gotta love inconsistent messaging.
Kat: Oh my goodness, just, yeah. It was a lot. The Honda Center was a lot. But overall it worked out in the end, we got the banners hung up and there were lots of great banners hanging around, so it was great.
-end segment- 7:55
START: Inconsistent Tech Panels at 4CC 2019
Kite: So, moving into more discussion about the actual competition that happened at Four Continents, one of the overarching themes that we, unfortunately, noticed throughout the event was the fact that many of the calls from the tech panel were quite inconsistent for the men's and the ladies' Short Program and Free Skates. So we saw several instances where the tech panel showed varying degrees of lenience on underrotation calls.
Evie: Yeah, so, the Men's Short Program, there was definitely an aura of the fact that the underrotations weren't being noticed by the tech panel, or at least being noticed but not being called, it was a very lenient panel, to say the least, in the Short Program. So, the biggest example of that was Vincent Zhou, he's got a really big international reputation for underrotating his jumps, it's not a new problem, he's had it for quite a while, and obviously he came first in the Short Program here, and he became the fourth man to score over 100, but... his jumps - all of them were landed on either at the quarter or just above the quarter, they were basically all underrotated. Not just through slow-mo, you could see it in real time that he was not rotating his jumps. Again, this isn't a new problem for him, especially with his quads, he has struggled rotating them in the past, and the tech panel didn't call any of them - the quad Lutz, the quad sal, and the triple Axel were all uncalled and that helped him break the hundred-point mark. It was very disappointing, at least from my perspective, to see that this was happening. And these calls persisted throughout the program, we also had Junhwan Cha of Korea, who underrotated his quad sal and his triple loop which was in combination with the triple Lutz, and that wasn't called by the panel as well, and he ended up coming in 2nd. And again, Jun has an international reputation of underrotating mainly his quads and also his triple loop, these aren't new problems, but they were being ignored in the Short Program.
Kite: Yep. And taking all that into consideration, the fact that the two leaders after the Short Program both had pretty noticeable underrotations that weren't called by the tech panel, it does seem like Boyang Jin should have won the Short Program, because of the significant errors that weren't called by the panel, so even though Boyang did have a step-out on the opening quad Lutz in his program, at least personally I think he should have been in first after the Short Program.
Evie: Yeah, I agree with that. It's quite surprising that the panel was this lenient in the Short Program, especially because Shin Amano was assistant technical specialist, and he's a tech specialist that's quite known for being very strict when it comes to underrotations, some people might remember that he was on the panel at Worlds 2018, and during the Free Skate he was actually seen by fans to be pointing his pen at the playback stream for the other people on the tech panel, pointing out Maria Sotskova's underrotations in her Free Skate, and she ended up getting four calls in that Free from them. So it's a known thing in the figure skating fandom that if Shin's on the panel, you can kind of expect calls to be pretty strict, so it was quite surprising, I think, to see this kind of lenience in the short, and then we also saw in the Free that they weren't as lenient, they kind of took a step back and they were being kind of selectively strict with underrotations in the Free Skate.
Kite: Yeah, maybe they heard us all yelling about it, or maybe Shin Amano is resurrected between the men's short and the men's Free. But again, like Evie said, it was quite a selectively strict tech panel, so there were definitely some underrotations that weren't called while other skaters got just completely hammered on underrotation calls. So for example, Shoma Uno very clearly underrotated his quad flip in the Free Skate and it wasn't called, but when you play it back at quarter speed you can actually see that he comes down right on the quarter mark, which, under the new rules, should be considered an underrotation, and I would also personally argue that the second quad toe in his program, which was in combination with the double toe, was borderline or at least should have been reviewed by the tech panel which I don't believe it was, and also some of Vincent Zhou's jumps were called in the Free Skate while others were not, for example they called his quad Lutz-triple toe combination, but they only called the triple toe, but when you play it back you can see that the quad Lutz was also underrotated. And then all of his other quads were called underrotated, and obviously again this is not a new problem for him, he has a pretty consistent reputation for underrotating his quads, so it's not like the underrotation problem just sprouted between the Short Program and the Free Skate, it's kind of been a persistent issue for him, so it's really a head scratcher that all of these calls were just ignored for him in the Short Program. And then finally, Junhwan Cha, unfortunately, received a total of six underrotation calls in the Free Skate, when he wasn't called on any in the Short Program, and ended up dropping from second place to sixth place because of these underrotation calls. It was just kind of a reminder of how inconsistent this season has been in terms of calling underrotations, even when they're visible in real time.
Evie: Yeah, and it was quite shocking to see Junhwan's scores in the Free Skate, especially since his coaches in the kiss and cry, they were all feeling really positive afterward, and you could see that they were quite upbeat about it, and as soon as the scores hit and they noticed how low the tech score was, it was just this giant sigh moment, you know. It was just like oh god, six underrotation calls in comparison to getting none in the Short Program, that's just ugh, insane.
Kite: Yeah, it really just hits home how different and inconsistent the judging was between the two days, which obviously, the whole point of having a judging system and rewarding grade of execution is that this is supposed to be an objective measure of what the skaters are doing on the ice and that's just not the case at all and it's just disheartening to see.
Evie: And you talk about inconsistency in between different competitions, it can be hard sometimes to compare results from different competitions when you have different panels and stuff, but this is all in the one competition with the same tech panel across just two segments and yet the results and the amount of calls was so wildly different, it's really confusing. And we had similar problems, I mean not to as great a degree but still present in the ladies as well, in the Short Program the tech panel was quite lenient towards underrotations, and as we know Bradie Tennell came in first in the Short Program, only .6 above Kaori Sakamoto, but Bradie had some uncalled errors, her triple Lutz and her triple toe combo, both jumps were underrotated, and her triple flip was underrotated and none of those were called, Mariah Bell also had the same problem with her triple Lutz triple toe combo where both jumps were underrotated and her triple flip was pretty on the borderline, very close to being landed on the quarter, so it at least should have been reviewed, and both of these ladies don't have great Lutz edges, it's kind of known that they have flutzes, and I'm personally not surprised that the panel didn't call that as well because there's no kind of international reputation of them calling those Lutzes so I'm not shocked by that but especially with Mariah, who is known for being quite a big underrotater internationally, I was kind of surprised, and we're gonna get into this more when we talk about the ladies, but putting Bradie above Kaori when Kaori skated a clean Short Program just shouldn't have happened full stop.
Kite: Definitely a choice.
Kite: And it was the wrong choice but again we saw with the Ladies that the tech panel somehow just woke up for the Free Skate and so Bradie, who was in the lead after the Short Program, ended up getting called four times on underrotations. As did Hanul Kim of Korea and Alaine Chartrand of Canada got 5 underrotation calls in her program. But on the flip side of that Mariah Bell did not get any calls in the free program. Even though she had several jumps that were either very clearly under-rotated or on the border of the quarter rotation should've at least been looked at again. Her first triple flip was definitely under-rotated according to the new rules. She landed on the quarter mark. The second triple flip in her program was pretty borderline, probably should've been reviewed. And then her last triple Lutz in combination was very clearly under-rotated, even in real time, and it wasn't called. And also we had some more inconsistencies in the Ladies Free Skate with edge warnings and edge calls on the Lutz and the flip. So Kaori Sakamoto, she did get an edge warning on her Lutz. And she's known to have a flutz so this is not really a surprising call but Bradie, Mariah, and Mai Mihara who also either have flat Lutzes or flutzes did not get called on their Lutz jumps. So again just not really sure like why? some of the ladies were called where some of them weren't when they're all known to have pretty similar issues with tech internationally.
Evie: I mean comparing them, Kaori's Lutz in the Free Skate was like very clearly inside. Like I'm actually quite surprised that she didn't get a full on edge call for that. Looking at the footage you can see that while she does prep outside edge like right as she strikes her toe pick down, she goes onto a full inside edge. And Bradie, Mariah, and Mai, they all had pretty flat edges but they weren't full on the inside like Kaori's was, so I'm actually quite surprised that the panel didn't give Kaori an edge call and then the other three edge warnings. But again I mean with Bradie and Mariah you know we also have to think about the fact that this is an event held in America. It's not as surprising when we see American ladies at American events get kind of slightly more lenient calls. There's a bit more of a historical precedence for that I guess.
Kite: Yeah definitely, so not really sure what was going on.
Evie: It's quite surprising that we see panels vary that much in two separate events as well because like it's not that outlandish to see one discipline that varies in tech panel calling, but to see two at the same event is quite surprising. And it worries me a lot because this kind of variance really makes me think about how this affects skaters' morale, the skaters that are being affected by these calls. You could see that like, even after the Short Program, the Men's Short Program, Vincent like saying to the media how he was proud of himself for being able to jump cleanly today and being able to hit the hundred point. When the judges kind of did him a disservice by not calling his problems in that program. It's still the judges' job to give fair and accurate calls to the skater and when you don't do that, you're doing them a disservice. Because Vincent knows that he does have really quite serious underrotation issues, so if he continues to get these kinds of lenient calls, that might not encourage him, I guess is probably the right word, to go and work and fix them. Especially with the fact that Tom Z[akrajsek], his coach, goes off at the tech panel being at fault every time he does get called on underrotations. Which probably doesn't help.
Kite: Yeah and kind of just to use Vincent as an example here, he did look quite shocked when he got his score for the Free Skate. Because I think it was quite a bit lower than he anticipated. Which again is the tech panel kind of falsely building up someone's confidence by not calling or not pointing out the areas in their skating where they can improve and then all of a sudden they [tech panel] start doing their jobs and scoring by the handbook and it's kind of a shock to the skater. And Vincent also said after the Free Skate that he thought he could contend for a medal at the World Championships. Which in my opinion is gonna be pretty hard for him to do knowing the field that's going to be there unless several of his competitors just have a bad competition. But again, I think it's the fact that the judges aren't quite fully doing their job that he is being given this unrealistic sense of confidence in his technique. Like Evie said with his coach going out on Facebook and Twitter and basically calling out the tech panels for "unfairly calling him" and saying that Vincent has something like "special ankles" and that's why his jumps look like that and they're not actually under-rotated. It's just...it's a whole lot. In my opinion, it's pretty irresponsible for a coach of a world-class skater to be ignoring their skater's technical flaws like this. Especially when this has been a problem in the past for him, this is not something that suddenly emerged at this competition. And I think that a lot of his unrealistic sense of confidence in his technique stems from the fact that his coaching team, instead of directly addressing these flaws in his skating, are kind of trying to push the onus of it onto the judges. And saying “When the judges don't call it, that means we're doing something right and that when they do call it that's cause the judges are wrong.” It's just quite irresponsible. Not only does it do the skater a disservice it also unfairly, I think, penalizes their competitors who do have good technique and have learned good technique. And they're not encouraged, necessarily, to fix their issues when they're going to get high scores anyway and then they're not getting rewarded for what they're doing correctly and they'd not being told what they could do better. And it's not really doing anyone a favor to ignore these tech calls.
Evie: I really hope that next month at Worlds we're going to have pretty strict panels. I have kind of a feeling that we probably will end up getting that. But yeah I really hope...especially at a competition that is very important because, in the grand scheme of things, Four Continents isn't the most important competition of the season. If this kind of thing happened at Worlds, I can only imagine the backlash that would've resulted.
Kite: Think strict for Worlds.
-end segment- 22:53
Kat: For me, the highlight of this event was obviously the Pairs. Little known fact that I literally bought tickets to Four Continents, or I resolved to go to Four Continents when I head that Sui and Han were going to be there,
Evie: What a surprise! Shocking!
Kite: Shocked! This is brand new information!
Kat: I was not planning to go to this event at all! And then once they announced that they were going I was like well I have to go now.
Evie: That is the most Kat thing in the world.
Kat: My brand! So for the Pairs, for the podium: Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro from Canada, and Peng Chen and Jin Yang from China. So we're going to talk about the highlight of the Pairs' event, right?
Evie: (chuckles) Of course!
Kat: Oh my goodness! Guys seeing them live is just like...it's just like...they're so magical and perfect and...honestly it feels like the Pairs' field has finally validated its' existence with them back again.
Evie and Kite: *laughter* Ouch!
Kat: Honestly, I feel like the Pairs' field has just been dwindling and now they are back and Pairs is finally a thing again!
Evie: James and Cipres I'm so sorry!
Kat: I'm so sorry I love them so much! But Sui and Han are just the class of the Pairs' field. I think that...I love James/Cipres and you've heard me crying about them multiple times.
Kite: I've seen you crying about them multiple times.
Kat: You've also seen me cry about them and I love them so much. But, Sui and Han are just so special in their connection to each other. Just their basic skating is so remarkable and just how perfectly in sync they are, despite the fact that they are just 2 months into intense practice. I'm pretty sure they just started practicing at their normal intensity in December, two weeks before Chinese Nationals and so this was only the third time they did their Free Skate run through full out which is just incredible considering they made only one major mistake in addition to the kind of wonky level 2 Pairs spin, but we'll get to that later. But they're just so special and that Free Skate is just everything. They said they wanted to be innovative and incorporate elements that have never been done by Pairs previously and I think that their Free Skate definitely shows that. And the opening movements, where she kind of weaves her hands in and out, and the handstand, to that choreo sequence where it looks like their flapping wings. They're just so in sync, they have beautiful air positions in throws, they have a gorgeous twist - which you wouldn't expect considering how small they are. They have incredibly fast lifts like that final lift just flies across the rink so fast with the change in positions with no hands. Man, they're just so amazing and spectacular.
Evie: They are just insane. It was so good to see them back in competition here and see them do so well. I think that Free Skate definitely has the potential to become my new favorite program of theirs. At the moment I think my favorite program of theirs is probably "Bridge Over Troubled Water" from 16-17 because I just remember full on openly sobbing during the Pairs Free at Worlds. That was just a moment. But this Free Skate, and the Short Program as well, there's something about them that's just so special. They have a connection that no other Pairs team in the field currently has and I'm just so happy to see them back.
Kite: So I think the judges were pretty much ready to give them the World Record, at least in the Short Program, before they even came out and then, unfortunately, she had the fall on the triple toe and so that actually knocked them down to second place. And with Sui and Han out for most of the season, the momentum in the Pairs field has pretty solidly shifted towards James and Cipres, because they are the only undefeated Pair left in the world. But I think Sui and Han if they get back to the level they were at during the Olympics, they could easily grab that World title if they're clean. And they were pretty close to being clean here. They made two pretty big mistakes, but again, for how long they've been out of competition I think it's pretty amazing that they were still able to eke out the win here coming back from the year-long hiatus. It just really shows how strong they are as a team and the caliber of athlete they are. Especially since the second place Pairs team actually didn't make any major mistakes.
Kat: Honestly, they are that team that I'm like "I don't care about falls. Give them 80!" I don't care that they fell, they deserve 10s in everything like Skating Skills, Composition and Interpretation. 10s, all the time. Does not matter what they do, they deserve 10s. And they honestly remind me so much of Ice Dancers in the way that - especially when I was watching them warm up during practice, they practiced together in hold and warmed up together in hold, which I don't see Pairs normally do that. And Wenjing's hands have that same kind of tension that reminds me so much of Yuzuru [Hanyu] or Alena Kostornaia where there's just so much energy that flows from them at all times. Her awareness of her hands at all times is just so perfect that she deserves all of the Performance and Interpretation points that have ever existed. She's just wonderful.
Evie: Those side-by-side triple Salchows are still very cursed.
Kat: Yes, and they landed them in practice so I know that she has the capability to do that. Although I was really shocked to see her fall on the triple toe in the Short Program. I was like "No!"
Evie: When was the last time we saw them make a major mistake like that in the Short Program on the side-by-side? I can't remember the last time.
Kat: The last time I remember them making a mistake was at the Grand Prix Final in 2017 when he fell on the triple toes and he never does that either! They barely ever make a mistake in the Short Program.
Evie: Very uncharacteristic.
Kat: Extremely uncharacteristic of those two. But I think that if they skate clean in the Short Program, James and Cipres have historically not been as strong in the Short Program. It's not as strong of a program as their Free Skate and they do have some minor inconsistencies as well. So if Sui and Han can execute like they normally do for their Short Program, and just land the triple Salchow some way, even if it's two-footed, turned out, whatever. Just land it on one foot — no, just land it!
Kite: Just land on your feet.
Evie: I think it's definitely a sign that if Sui and Han skate clean the judges are willing to really hand out the big marks to them. You can see that even with the mistakes, they were still getting really good marks.
Kat: I was going to say, they also hit their levels. The big money elements are obviously the lifts and the twists in Pairs and they always get at least level 3 or level 4 on their twists and their lifts as well. They are just so spectacular, so I'm hoping they will keep working and land the Salchows in some way or another. I think that they'll be right there.
Evie: It makes me so sad to think that we're only going to see these programs a couple of times.
Kat: I hope they keep, especially, the Free Skate for next season. That Free Skate has the potential to be legendary.
Kite: Recycle it.
Evie: I would totally be fine if they recycle the Free.
Kite: I saw so many fancams of them practicing the Free and I just refuse to watch any of them because I wanted to be surprised when they did it in competition for the first time. I'm so glad I waited.
Kat: It's so magical.
Evie: I was too impatient and watched practice videos, and I still ended up being completely surprised by the performance and ended up crying.
Kat: I only saw the Free really skated once in practice. For the Pairs Free practice, Wenjing cut her hand on something that I haven't figured out what it was. For half their run through, she was like, I don't know what to do about my bloody hand.
Kite: Just Pairs things. As you can tell, Kat had quite a good time at Four Continents.
Kat: Yes, it was worth it honestly. And getting the flower crown on her, this is my entire purpose of being here right now.
Evie: Your life has been fulfilled.
Kite: You can die happy.
Kat: I'm so happy that they ended up in official photos in that flower crown. I'm so so happy.
Evie: Moving onto the silver medalists, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro. They skated two really good programs here and I think they would've won overall if they didn't have that one problem in the Free Skate with the lift.
Kat: Oh my goodness, can I just say watching that live was so terrifying because I immediately had flashbacks to [Ashley] Cain and [Timothy] LeDuc.
Evie: Oh no.
Kat: She looked like she was panicking on that lift. Do you remember when I just showed up in the chat and was like, What was the level of that lift because that was really tragic?
Evie: You can see that she was wobbling in the air and Michael was struggling to keep her steady and keep them held up properly. It wasn't surprising that the lift got a Level 2 and negative GOE as well.
Kat: Michael Marinaro did a really good job of saving that because that could've ended up really badly, so props to him.
Kite: I think that was the same lift they struggled on at Autumn Classic, that Kat and I saw live where she was in the air unsteadily and you can see her talking to him up there. She's like “What are you doing?”
Kat: Afterwards, the death glare. She was like “What was that?”
Kite: Two really good skates from them obviously, but I've seen both of these programs live twice this season. I honestly couldn't tell you a single thing about them.
Kat: I think especially watching them after Sui and Han, you can definitely note the difference in quality in terms of the program and choreography and Pairs skating quality. It's just not at the same level.
Evie: I don't know how I feel about them winning the Short Program and being so close to Sui and Han. They skated the best they have this season in the Short Program here, but even then, there is a difference between their overall quality of skating and Sui and Han. Even with Sui and Han's fall in the short, there is still a noticeable difference.
Kat: Just the skating quality should put Sui and Han much farther ahead, with interpretation and construction of the program. I'm so bored by the Pink Floyd program, especially after watching how breathtaking Sui and Han's Free Skate was.
Evie: I had one of those moments where it's like, Do I like their Pink Floyd Free Skate or do I just enjoy listening to their music? I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan so I think I just liked it by association.
Kite: Moving onto the bronze medalists, [Cheng] Peng and [Yang] Jin. I just wanted to say how proud I am of this team, that they went from not qualifying for the Free Skate at the Olympics to winning silver at the Grand Prix Final and then bronze here at Four Continents in less than a season. It's just a crazy amount of progress, and they've really been holding the fort for Chinese Pairs while Sui and Han were on hiatus. I think with the momentum they have this season, they haven't finished off the podium at any of their events. They can really challenge for a world medal if they skate two solid programs. They beat Tarasova and Morozov at Grand Prix Final, which I wasn't expecting to happen and I think they can do that again. They can get onto that world podium if they're clean, and I hope they do.
Evie: I fully support them getting onto that podium at Worlds.
-end segment- 35:43
Evie: Moving onto the Men. For the podium in gold, we have Shoma Uno of Japan. In silver, we have Boyang Jin of China. In bronze, we have Vincent Zhou of the U.S. Shoma nabs his first ever ISU Championship gold medal.
Kite: Silver curse is broken!
Kat: I actually roped in one of my friends who lived in Los Angeles to watch the Ladies' and the Men's Free with me, and she actually knew who Shoma and Boyang were so she was really excited to see them.
Evie: Who doesn't know about the Japanese sensation Shoma Uno?
Kat: I brought her in to watch the men's Free with me, and I was just like, I'm so happy that no one severely imploded in the last group. Because I would've traumatized her forever. I brought her down to the front row with me and I would've traumatized her if, say, Group 4 at Worlds 2018 happened.
Evie: No, don't remind me.
Kat: If Shoma implodes because of his ankle, and if Boyang implodes because he has imploded on his Free all season, I would've been so sad.
Evie: The Men's Free Skate at Worlds 2018 did not happen, Kat. It didn't happen.
Kite: Group 4 didn't happen, aside from Nathan.
Kat: Group 3 happened and they were great.
Evie: It was so surprising to see so many back-to-back clean Free’s or near-clean Free’s in the Men's event. That was just... what!
Kat: I was so happy she was able to see Shoma and Boyang do so well here because that could've gone a completely different route.
Evie: It could've gone the way of the Euros Men's Free Skate.
Kat: Another group we do not want to revisit.
Evie: No. But Shoma broke the world record in the Free Skate with his performance of “Moonlight Sonata” here and by seven points as well, which was very impressive. Impressive and also slightly questionable.
Kite: A bit of a head-scratcher for me personally.
Evie: As we talked about before, his quad flip was pretty clearly underrotated and his quad toe was on the borderline. At least if his quad flip was called, it would've been a lot closer. I think even if his quad flip was called underrotated, they still would've given it to him but within a point or two.
Kite: I agree with that. The world record previously was 190-ish, which is pretty low for a top man if you consider they've taken one of the jumping passes out. Because the historic world record was like 223, so one jumping pass doesn't really account for 33 points. I'm actually surprised, quite frankly, that it took this long for the world record to be broken. Like Evie said, he would've lost about 3 points if they called the underrotation on the quad flip and that would've put him at 194 in the Free Skate. If they had knocked the GOE down for that comparably, it would've been about a point or two above the world record. Personally, if I had given him the benefit of the doubt on the quad toes, I would've given him the world record. Just by a little bit, not by seven points. All of that said, this is one of the best Free Skates we've seen from any man all season in international competition. I'm incredibly glad that he survived, given his ankle injury because I was fully prepared for the worst to happen. He had what was pretty much a clean program. I'm really proud of him to pull that out under the circumstances, and I hope this is going to be a confidence boost for him heading into Worlds at home against his two main rivals.
Kat: I'm so glad that this was definitely his best performance of the Free this season. I really wish he could've skated the Short Program clean, but that program has really grown on me. His movements now and that step sequence are so crisp and super sharp. He sells it so well and he gets really amazing speed and ice coverage on the step sequence. It's really impressive.
Evie: I think the performance level of his Free Skate was probably the highest that we've seen it all season. He really kept me engaged in the program, which is a problem I've had while watching it. While I'm watching it, I either focus completely on if he's going to survive his jumps, or I keep focusing on how the first half of the program is empty still. He actually managed to keep my attention in this performance, and he really drew me in. I think this is the first time I've actually really liked this program. I hope this continues and stays for Worlds, especially if he skates it this well at Worlds and he manages to rotate the quad flip — he's definitely going to contend for the podium, if not the title.
Kat: Just pray for his ankle.
Evie: Pray for ankles! Can I just donate my ankle, please, to all figure skaters? I don't need them.
Kite: Shoma, if you're listening, please rest.
Evie: Should we talk about our silver medalist, Boyang Jin? Never underestimate Boyang. He is not a first half of the season skater, you know. He has that kind of reputation where he always peaks in the second half. He pulled it off here.
Kat: If you're going to peak, you want to peak in the second half anyway because that's when all the major titles are.
Evie: Last year, he peaked when Four Continents and the Olympics happened, and the year before that he peaked when Worlds was. The year before that, he peaked at Worlds as well. It's kind of a running thing where Boyang does well in the second half, but tanks the first. I think especially after Chinese Nationals where he skated two nearly clean programs, it was a real confidence booster for him.
Kat: He flies during those jumps. Oh my goodness, you genuinely believe he might fly out of the rink. When he picks in for that quad Lutz, it flies.
Evie: I'm kind of worried about the quad Lutz just because the landings have been really shaky at this competition and at Chinese Nationals. Throughout the season, he struggled to land them. Because they were decently consistent last season and the season before, at least in the second half, so I don't know what's going on with that or if it's a response of his training. His Skating Skills and spins have improved since last season, you can tell he's been training both of those in the off-season. I don't know if he's been focusing more on improving himself as a whole rather than finessing his jump technique. That could be a thing, but I'm so glad he managed to get on the podium here after quite a disappointing first half of the season. He looks so happy up there.
Kite: I just want to point out that I feel like two mostly clean programs from him should've put him ahead of Vincent by more than a point and closer to Shoma overall. The fact that Shoma was ahead of Boyang by 16 points in the Free Skate is pretty hard to explain to me when both of them made a noticeable error. They both stepped out of a jump, and plus with Shoma's underrotation we talked about already. I feel like Boyang should've been closer to 185 or 190 than he actually was. I'm just so proud of him, and I'm glad he's getting the momentum here at Four Continents. Again, if you're going to peak, peak at the second half of the season. I hope that he really kind of tries to drill those landings going forward because he is not able to give away any points on landings if he wants to make the podium at Worlds.
Kat: Especially because his PCS are not at the same level as some of the other top guys. He's really going to need to rely on his technical content to make up that gap, but he definitely could if he lands the quad Lutzes and the quad toes like he normally can. That quad Lutz is a stunner when he lands them clean. I've seen a couple of them in practice, and they're just beautiful.
Evie: Going onto Vincent Zhou in bronze. We talked about how his underrotation issues in both programs. It was kind of a mess scoring-wise. Performance-wise, he performed both of his programs here the best of this season so far, barring maybe U.S. Nationals because I think those were really strong. His programs this season are the strongest that he's ever had, but it's hard to focus on what he's putting out there when his scores are this crazy.
Kat: Not only that but watching him live. This is the first time I'm seeing Vincent live, compared to the other guys, he's really slow and his step sequence doesn't really cover that much ice. He also doesn’t have the knee bend and flow the other men have. His Skating Skills are really not that great, and his posture could also use some improvement. He really does rely on that technical content in order to keep himself in contention. With his history of underrotations, I don’t know how successful he’ll be without working on the other parts of his packaging if he wants to excel internationally in the future. It seems right now, they’re just focusing on him expanding his technical repertoire and hopefully working on those underrotations. But he really has a lot of work to do with his overall basic skating.
Kat: He really does rely on that technical content in order to keep himself in contention, and with his history of underrotations, I just don't know how successful he'll be without working on the other parts of his packaging if he wants to excel internationally in the future, because it seems right now they're just focusing on having him expand his technical repertoire and hopefully working on those underrotations. But he really has a lot of work to do with the rest of his overall basic skating.
Kite: It's really evident, even from a stream, the difference between Vincent's Skating Skills and Shoma or Keegan, is really, really striking.
Kat: I was gonna say, I wasn't sure if you could tell any of those things on the stream, but especially watching it live, his weaknesses are incredibly apparent.
Kite: I agree with Kat that he relies a lot on his tech content, and in fairness to him, his triples are actually pretty good. He gets really solid air position, really tight rotations on his triples. Unfortunately, again, with how inconsistent the calls are, his team is pretty obviously aware that it's better to just go for the quads and just hope that they don't get called than to actually take a step back and rework the basics and make sure he's actually getting his rotations. Unfortunately, when he doesn't really have the performance and the Skating Skills to shore up less-than-ideal technique, it's really hard to see him breaking into that top 6 or top 7 men internationally.
Evie: In fourth place, we have Keegan Messing of Canada. I think his Free Skate here was definitely the best he's performed it in the season so far. And honestly, I think I would've put him on the podium above Vincent. I think he would've gotten on the podium if Vincent's Short Program's underrotations were called.
Kat: The quality of his skating is just so high and above Vincent's, and I think that should have been the difference, to be honest. He has such great Skating Skills.
Kite: When you watch him live, you can hear the depth of his edges as he's moving through steps. It's just amazing. He has some of the best Skating Skills in the field, and pretty solid jumps, even if I don't fully connect with his programs or his skating. I think that he should've been bronze.
Kat: He, Jason, and Shoma have the best Skating Skills in this field.
Kite: By far.
Evie: Definitely, I think, after Canadian Nationals, it was like a wakeup call for him that he needs to be at his best in the second half of the season, considering he got silver there and he didn't have the greatest placement at the Grand Prix Final, either. I think if he keeps skating like he's skating, he definitely has the chance to break into top 5 at Worlds, even possibly podium if someone makes a mistake, I guess. So, a shoutout quickly to Donovan Carrillo, from Mexico, who finally showed up to a competition!
Kat: I'm so proud of him.
Kite: He made it!
Evie: If people don't know, Donovan only showed up to one competition in the first half of the season, which was the Junior Grand Prix in Bratislava, and then he withdrew from a couple of Challenger Series competitions [Note: He withdrew due to an ankle injury]. He trains in Mexico, and his coach actually coaches him for free, and he lives with his coach as well, because his family lives too far away from the rink that he trains at to commute easily every day. And he also coaches at his local rink to subsidize all the costs of his competitive career because he basically gets no funding from the Mexican federation. To hear the crowd's support for Donovan at this event was so good. They were cheering for him so loudly.
Kat: It was so, so amazing to see how much the crowd adored him. And he's just such a sweetheart. I saw him multiple times just signing autographs and taking photos with fans in the corridors outside the rink. He is just so friendly and wonderful.
Evie: He is really great. Even after he had such a rough Free Skate --
Kat: Oh my gosh, the sombrero, though! Oh my gosh.
Evie: Yeah, someone threw him a sombrero afterward, and then he wore it and did a spread eagle, smiling while wearing it to show it off at the end.
Kat: I love it.
Evie: That kind of reaction -- that Free Skate was extremely rough. He fell multiple times in that, and yet, he was still able to finish it with a smile.
Kat: He has such potential, though. Even regardless of how his story is inspirational, he is a great skater. If he actually got the kind of funding that he needed and the competition that he really needs, who knows what he could turn out like?
Evie: He definitely has some technical weaknesses in regards to his jumps. They're not the greatest, but he has been working really hard on it. Every time I see him, I just basically want to throw money at him to fund his career.
Evie: He deserves it. I want to send him to a good jump coach because then he would really be able to rise up the ranks. And it's good to see that now he actually has opened up a support page on his website, and we'll put a link in the description of this episode to it. If you are a fan of Donovan and you want to support him and his skating career, you can go donate some money to him to help him do that. I'm sure he has lots of fans that would be more than willing to help him out on this.
-end segment- 50:38
START: Ice Dance
Kite: For the Ice Dance event at Four Continents, in first place, we had Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the US. In second place, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada. And in third place, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, also of Canada.
Evie: Okay, so, I'm here, as always, to give my rant on the Rhythm Dance, because oh boy, do I have things to say.
Kat: I did not get to actually analyze the levels because I was sitting there live and there's no tech box on the Jumbotron at live events. It was just me being like, "Evie, what are the levels? What's the level on this?"
Evie: Okay, yeah. Basically, the levels here were kind of a mess. I'm not really surprised, considering a lot of the top teams, especially the North American top teams, haven't skated great Tango Romanticas in general for the past half of the season (Kat: Right.), so it wasn't completely shocking. Basically, I was really disappointed that Chock and Bates didn't win the Rhythm Dance because they had the highest base value of all of the teams in the Rhythm Dance. They almost skated a clean program. They only missed one level, which was one key point, in one of the sections of the Tango Romantica. If they didn't have that, they would've skated it clean. And yet, they did not win the segment.
Kat: Which is impressive, because they're not known for being technical skaters.
Kite: Not at all, no.
Evie: And obviously, Hubbell and Donohue ended up winning the Rhythm Dance, which isn't that surprising. They did get a season's best, which was a little bit surprising, considering their base value was the lowest of the top four skaters here. It was also lower than the 6th place and the 8th place skaters, and it was about the same base value as 10th place. So that's a bit of a mess. It was also, overall in their season, the second-lowest base value that they've ever gotten in that Rhythm Dance, the lowest being at Grand Prix Final. And obviously, we already went off on that in the Grand Prix Final episode.
Kat: I don't even know what has happened to Madi's Skating Skills?
Evie: I know, right?
Kat: Their rockers were so flat, even from halfway across the rink, I could tell. I didn't think either of them got their rockers. They gave Zach the rocker, but it still looked flat to me.
Evie: It looked flat to me as well. Especially considering Madi has been the better skater of the two in the last couple of seasons, she's the one that really had the better Skating Skills and quality of edge overall, and now this season, like you said, Kat, I wonder where her Skating Skills have gone, because she's just not hitting that quality of edge that she has in the past.
Kat: I'm not sure if it's just that she's not into the program, or they're not drilling them that much, but she has historically been so much stronger, and now, I'm not sure what happened.
Evie: It's not surprising that they got a season's best in the Rhythm Dance, because if they skate anywhere close to clean, the judges are really willing to hand out the big PCS for them.
Kite: And the GOE.
Evie: And the GOE, as well. It was crazy. They only got a level 2 on their midline step sequence, and they got nearly a +4 total GOE. Meanwhile, Chock and Bates, who got a level 4 on their circular step sequence, only got around a +3 in total.
Kat: Which is so incredible, considering how hard it is for these team to get level 4s.
Evie: And once you add up the GOE to the base value of the step sequences, the level 2 and level 4 only ended up being a point different.
Kat: Which should not be right. It just goes to show that now all of the politicking, especially with the +5/-5, has gone straight to the GOE and the PCS. You can make all the difference with that. At that point, do levels really matter, right?
Kite: Hubbell and Donohue -- their wins earlier in the season have led them to believe they don't have to hit their levels because even if they don't get their levels, they're gonna get the GOE to boost them to the top, right? This was actually said by Madi after they won Grand Prix Final. They were like, "We're not really focusing on levels, we're trying to improve the quality of our skating." Which sounds nice on paper and everything, until you realize that's literally the opposite of what an Ice Dancer's job is. Your job as a top Ice Dancer is to be able to use your edges, which you're not doing.
Evie: The judges were totally ready to give them the win overall.
Kite: Oh, yeah.
Evie: If they didn't have that error in the Free Dance, which we will talk about later, they would've totally won. Nearly all the judges placed them first in PCS, except for one. That's not surprising, but it's just disappointing, because we've seen this happen so many times. Especially going into Worlds next month -- the European teams have been much more solid than the North American teams when it comes to the Rhythm Dance, so I think that Hubbell and Donohue need to be prepared to, in the next month, train the hell out of their levels, really drill everything.
Kite: Drill their lifts too, at this point. Might be a good idea to revisit those.
Evie: If they don't, they could risk not getting on the podium at the end of the day. Going on to our gold medalists, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, a really strong outing considering this is only their third competition of the season. Personally, I think their programs are really, really strong this season, but I think their Free Dance score was a little bit over-the-top, at least in my opinion. I think their Free is definitely in need of some refinement and polishing overall. And maybe that's just an effect of them missing the first half of the season. (Kat: Right, yeah.) They haven't had that kind of practice time or that competition time.
Kat: Their lifts, though. Man. Except for the exit out of that one lift.
Kite: Oh yeah, where she tripped.
Evie: Their curve lift was really solid and their straight-line lift was really solid as well, but the choreo lift -- they've had that problem before. They did the same kind of thing at Torun Cup in January, where she completely tripped out of the end, but the judges didn't care, really, here. They still got really good GOE. I think most of the judges gave them +3s for that, even though that was very obviously a stumble. I don't necessarily agree with them winning the Free Dance, I think that should've gone to Gilles and Poirier because their Free Dance is absolutely amazing. (Kite: I agree.) But I'm not upset at all that they won here. I think that they're definitely a team that's going to challenge for a medal position at Worlds, which is great to see, considering they're coming back from Madi's injury.
Kat: And a pretty disappointing end of the season last year, as well, so it's great to see them pushing towards the top again.
Kite: I think Chock and Bates versus Hubbell and Donohue is another version the crowd favorite, really get you going programs, versus the stronger skaters, relatively speaking. I think Hubbell and Donohue are objectively better skaters than Chock and Bates, but they just don't have quite the charisma and the performance to really convince people of that. And I feel like that's why people are suddenly wanting Chock and Bates to rise above Hubbell and Donohue as US #1. So, I guess we can move on to our silver medalists, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada. A really technically solid Short Program from them, because they've not historically been very technically strong skaters. They actually almost got perfect levels, aside from missing a key point in part of the Tango Romantica, and then Andrew messing up on the twizzles.
Kat: What else is new?
Evie: I mean...
Kat: I saw that happen and I was like, "God, Andrew!"
Kite: Kind of expect it to happen, a little bit.
Evie: I mean, he lived in the Free Dance. That's something.
Kat: I was holding my breath.
Kite: If you're gonna live in one of the segments, live in the Free.
Evie: Yeah, definitely.
Kite: But for the fact that this is their first major international outing in nearly a year, silver is not too shabby for them.
Kat: And I still love that Free Dance so much. It's gorgeous. It was really nice to see it nice and clean here.
Evie: I think that, like Chock and Bates, their programs still need that kind of polish and that refinement overall, because, again, they haven't had the same level of practice as some of the other teams here. I don't think that their elements overall were as clean as some of the others.
Kat: Right. I think with them it's more like they need more practice on the elements. I can tell that they've obviously skated it many times in front of an audience, so the performance aspect of it was really great, still. But the elements still need some work. Oh my God, guys, your twizzles, please. Please.
Evie: They've always had --
Kat: Yeah, they've always had -- they're kind of slow.
Evie: Yeah. They're slow, they struggle holding the edge on them, they frequently step out or miss rotations and so lose levels on that.
Kat: Or will go out of sync.
Evie: Yeah, and obviously if you don't have good twizzles, you're not going to do very well overall. But all of their other strengths make up for that, almost. But I think going into Worlds they're really going to need to be careful with their twizzles because this field is going to be - well, maybe not for gold but the field for silver and bronze is going to be so - (Kite laughs) Listen, you know who's going to win Worlds!
Kite: (sarcastically) It's going to be [Alexandra] Stepanova and [Ivan] Bukin.
Evie: Oh my god, I wish. Anyway, they're going to definitely need to be careful with their twizzles if they want to get onto the podium at Worlds because if everyone skates their best and they have problems with their twizzles, that's going to get them off the podium.
Kat: Like between the Russian teams and the North American team and then obviously the French team, it's going to be a really tough fight for the podium. Anything could happen, I guess. Honestly, if Hubbell and Donohue had not gotten that base on the stationary lift, they could have really been pushing towards Papadakis and Cizeron level scores in the Free Dance, I think.
Evie: Ooh, I don't know about that. I think they would have probably gotten near to 130 but not over past 130.
Kat: Let's say like 129 - that's still quite a bit considering Papadakis/Cizeron tend to not do as well in their Rhythm Dance.
Evie: I still think that even if Papadakis and Cizeron didn't their best that they would still win overall.
Kite: They should still win!
Evie: They should still win, their quality of skating is the best in the field. There is no question. So moving onto the bronze medalists, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. Honestly, I just love their Free Dance so much.
Kite: Every time I hear the music [I] start to cry. It's just so beautiful.
Kat: Yeah, it's just gorgeous.
Evie: And that was the best performance they've done of it this season by far.
Kite: Oh yeah, by far.
Kat: Absolutely, it's incredible. They kind of remind me of Sui and Han's Free Skate in that they're doing innovative and new things with their choreography and in their movements and it all just works together so well. And their musicality and performance of it is just - it's breathtaking.
Evie: Honestly, I am in the belief that they should have won the Free Dance, if not won overall.
Kat: That extended lift deduction!
Evie: Oh god...
Kite: They would have beat Weaver and Poje if not for the extended lift deduction plus the GOE they lost on not executing that lift properly. Weaver and Poje should be worried about their spot as Canadian number one.
Evie: This is the second time that they've lost in the Free to Gilles and Poirier so I think this is another wake-up call for them, I guess, after Canadian Nationals. I just really wish that they would give Piper and Paul the scores that they deserve, not just in the GOE but PCS, because they aren't hitting it as well as other teams even when they skate a program clean.
Kat: Her reaction in the Kiss and Cry was like "Oh no, we were so close, if not for that deduction!"
Evie: Okay, so moving onto Hubbell and Donohue. I think a lot of people who aren't Ice Dance fans - or even people who are Ice Dance fans, were quite confused when they saw that they got the stationary lift down to a base value only, no levels whatsoever. That is because Zach didn't establish the lift really well and he traveled quite a lot on the ice. And so, when the tech panel is counting the levels for stationary lifts, they're not allowed to count the features for the level until the couple stays stationary and rotates on the spot. It's actually quite handy that they did [the lift] in the middle of the rink because you can see that they start in the middle of the logo and then they travel to the right edge of it. You can see how much they travel, like about a meter in total, and, honestly, kudos to the tech panel for picking it up and calling them on that. That's really encouraging to see, especially just after the season that we've had so far when it comes to Ice Dance. Seeing that kind of strictness when it comes to lifts is just great to see.
Kat: Yeah, and I should note that the assistant tech specialist is actually [Russian Ice Dancer] Jonathan Guerreiro's mom. (Evie: Yes!) And so that is very interesting to see how maybe the politics would work out in this instance.
Evie: And the technical controller for the event was Halina Gordon Poltorak, who is the chair of the Ice Dance technical committee for the ISU as well. So I was kind of expecting that if the calls were going to be either harsh or lenient, they were going to be more on the harsh side because-
Kite: The person who wrote the rules is literally there.
Evie: Exactly! So yeah, obviously, that was a crazy moment in the Free Dance, so they lost a lot of points.
Kat: 1 - that was the BV.
Evie: Yep, 1 point on the Base Value for a stationary lift. Oh boy.
Kite: Like the judges were fully prepared to give them the win if it weren't for that lift, like with the points and the GOE they lost.
Kat: When I saw the TES when they finished, I don't remember who told me what the TES was, I was like "Oh yeah, they're definitely going to win. They're going to get like 128."
Evie: As soon as I saw that they got a level 4 on their midline step sequence I was like "They've won, they're going to give it to them." And then, I think throughout the competition the scores weren't taking very long to be announced. Like the skaters were maybe in the Kiss and Cry, after they cut to them on the stream, for like 30 seconds before they announced the scores. And they took so long to announce Hubbell and Donohue's scores in the Free Dance and we all were like "Is there something wrong? What's going on?" If the panel's taking that long to give you the scores, there must be something wrong with the program and oh boy...
Kat: Boy was there something wrong.
Kite: That was difficult to watch. I don't actually think this is going to hurt them that much going into Worlds, personally. If they can skate two clean programs at Worlds I think they're still very much in medal contention territory because of the crazy GOE that they get and the fact that they get very generously rewarded in components.
Kat: It only just kind of halts their momentum a little bit and it gives Chock and Bates a leg up over them now just because they've won against them.
Evie: Well this means that Papadakis and Cizeron are the only team going into Worlds that have remained undefeated throughout the season.
Kite: But they've only competed twice internationally...
Evie: I know, I know - it's the thought that counts, okay? (hosts laugh) But I think overall that Hubbell and Donohue, as you guys said, I don't think they're in significant danger of losing out on a podium spot at Worlds if they skate as well as they have been throughout the season. But at the same time, a lot of the European teams have either come close to or surpassed [H/D's] seasons bests at other events. We had Stepanova and Bukin at Euros, they surpassed Hubbell and Donohue's seasons bests there, and we've also got the potential of [Victoria] Sinitsina and [Nikita] Katsalapov who have that kind of scoring potential because they're good at hitting their levels, and then we've also go the dark horses that are [Charlene] Guignard and [Marco] Fabbri. There are a lot of teams that have the possibility, if they hit the levels and Hubbell and Donohue don't, to overtake them. So I think that Hubbell and Donohue should really be wary of that going into Worlds next month.
Kite: But on the other hand, Hubbell and Donohue have beat most of those teams in direct competition earlier this season so it's going to be an interesting fight.
Kat: It will all depend on who's on the tech panel, honestly. I'm so interested to see who's going to be on that tech panel.
Kite: Going into Worlds, I think it's a pretty safe bet to say that Papadakis and Cizeron are very heavy favorites for gold, barring some disaster and then there are about 6 teams fighting for the other two medals.
Evie: It's going to be crazy. It's going to be a nail biter of an event.
Kite: I'm super excited and also really scared, which is kind of the mood of being a figure skating fan.
Evie: And just a quick shoutout, as I have to do, to Wang [Shiyue]/Liu [Xinyu] because they were the top finishers that weren't Canadian or American at Four Continents. They placed 7th, which I was kind of predicting and expecting, but this is the third time they've broken 100 in the Free Dance this season, and they're the first and only Asian team to do so, so I'm very proud of them. I'm still not the biggest fan of their Free Dance because they did restructure it in December, they changed the second half of it completely and they moved a lot of the elements around and I, personally, don't think that was a good choice. But it did look really good here, they got a seasons best, they were very happy with their scores but just the Rhythm Dance nearly gave me a heart attack! The twizzles!
Kite: Please drill your twizzles!
Kat: Yes, I was just "Oh my goodness" when she almost crashed into him. I was like "Oh no! We could have had it all!"
Kite: It was kind of funny to me because when I've seen them in practice live, he's always the one that's usually almost crashing into people because he's so tall.
Evie: Xinyu has got no awareness of other people in practice sessions. But the thing is that they did a really amazing set of twizzles in the warm-up in the Rhythm Dance and it got caught on the camera and I was just like "That's it, guys! They're gonna do really great, they're going to blow us all away!" Obviously, I should learn my lesson and not get too hyped up over warm-ups. I really hope that they do well at Worlds next month. I need Asian Ice Dance to rise, guys!
-end segment- 1:09:20
Evie: So, moving onto the Ladies event. Our podium, in gold, we have Rika Kihira of Japan, in silver, we have Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan, and in bronze, we have Mai Mihara, also of Japan. This Ladies event, guys! Oh boy.
Kat: Oh my goodness, it was so crazy.
Kite: That definitely happened.
Evie: It happened, yep!
Kat: The top 3 after the Short Program were not on the podium for the first time in Four Continents history.
Evie: What kind of a reversal...
Kat: I know right? Honestly, I was not shocked at all that Rika pulled out the win. I just knew I was like "She's going to be fine." Even though she had the boot issues and the finger issue, dislocated I mean, I just somehow knew that she was going to pull it out in the Free. That Free is just so magical, she trained it so well - it almost feels like she could skate it at any time and it would be perfect because she's drilled it so many times.
Evie: This is the third time that she's skated that Free Skate so well after a disappointing Short Program. She did it at NHK, and she did it at [Internationaux de] France and now she's here and she skated it as well as she could have. I am glad that she took out the second triple Axel in the Free, the one not in combo. That was a very smart choice for her.
Kat: Especially since she was able to make that decision kind of on the fly as well. Her ability to kind of regroup with those two opening triple Axels and just kind of do the mental calculations to see what would be the best way to proceed is just so incredible. Rika from last season would not have been able to pull that out. I'm just so shocked, or not shocked but I'm so impressed that this Free has turned out beautiful every single time she's skated it. She hasn't skated it poorly ever and, because it's such a unique and beautiful program, the judges are willing to reward it as well.
Kite: I feel like you could wake her up at like 2 in the morning and tell her to skate it and she would be able to skate it clean. You can see just how well trained she is going into it and I think this competition was important for her in the sense that it finally showed that she doesn't actually need a clean Short Program to win overall against a deeper field than she faced at her two Grand Prix assignments because her score ceiling is so high in the Free Skate that she's able to make up a score deficit even if she's behind.
Kat: I'm surprised at this point that she hasn't just decided to take the triple Axel out in the Short Program. I guess maybe she has something to prove to herself but this is not the first time she has messed up that triple Axel in the Short Program and then come back in the Free. I'm not sure if that's just part of her strategy, to do the triple Axel and see how it goes and then just pull it all out in the Free but she doesn't need that triple Axel! She could get zero points on that triple Axel and then pull out an amazing Free and win - she's proven that multiple times that she can do that.
Kite: It could be a different story at Worlds, I think. If she messes up in the Short Program and Alina is clean because Alina's seasons best in the Short Program is 80+ and Rika got like 68 in the Short Program here. So if that's the scenario that plays out at Worlds that's going to be a pretty hard difference to make up, even with how high her scoring potential is in the [Free Skate]. So I feel like she feels like she at least needs to go for the triple Axel.
Evie: Okay, our silver medalist - our surprise silver medalist, Elizabet Tursynbaeva with a fully rotated quad Salchow attempt in the Free Skate!
Kite: What? (hosts laugh)
Kat: I had zero idea that this was going to happen. I had zero idea, okay? And then that happened and she fell on it and I was like "Did she just do a quad Sal?" I had no idea that was going to happen.
Evie: It was cleanly rotated but she just slipped off the edge when she was landing it which is just crazy. I mean she's had the quad Sal in practice for a couple of years now. She had it when she was in Toronto as well when she was training at TCC and now she's back to training it again now that she's moved back to Eteri [Tutberidze]. Honestly, I don't particularly like seeing her practice quads just because she has a really long history with really bad hip injuries.
Kat: And she's so small, my goodness.
Evie: She is tiny, which is kind of a relief, honestly, because she is 18 and older than a lot of the other girls at Eteri's camp training quads and she's definitely stopped growing so there's not really any fear of her possibly outgrowing the jumps, I guess. But at the same time, I know how much that hip injury plagued her last season and I really don't want her to aggravate that again by training the quads. I just have fears, guys.
Kite: I don't know, she has a pretty nice triple Sal, I think. I'm not too worried about her training the quad Sal, especially since she's kind of had it in the works for a while. Honestly, I would love to see her be the first Senior lady to land a quad just because of how unexpected and chaotic it would be.
Kat: Oh my god, so chaotic.
Kite: Even here she was definitely like a dark horse medalist, right? No one really thought that she was going to be on the podium at Four Continents and then she ended up being the first lady from Kazakhstan to medal at an ISU Championship. So, I don't know, I think we might see something surprising at Worlds and I'm kind of ready for it but also kind of scared.
Evie: So, our bronze medalist, Mai Mihara. Now she's collected all three Four Continents medals!
Kat: She finally didn't place 4th!
Evie: Yay! The potato medal curse has been broken! I'm just so happy for her. That Free Skate, guys. Oh my god. I've never seen her perform that Free Skate so well and she's had really good performances of that in the past. Like Four Continents last year, or at Japanese Nationals last season-
Kite: And this season.
Evie: And this season! This performance was just... it made me cry so much.
Kat: She was so good and she was so devastated after her Short Program.
Evie: Yeah, that was so sad.
Kat: I'm so happy that she was able to come back in the Free and she did so well.
Evie: I just wish that the judges would reward her more overall.
Kat: 67 PCS.
Evie: She can skate a clean program or a messy program and still get that PCS. It's a shame.
Kat: I still don't understand how she's not getting 9s in Skating Skills.
Evie: She should get credit for being able to skate so well while she's suffering from arthritis. (Kat: Yep) I mean, that's just insane. At competitions in the past seasons, we've had reports of her holding heat packs on her joints before she's gone out to skate to minimize the pain. And that is so impressive, to see her be able to be such a high caliber of athlete while having to deal with that much pain and trouble. Guys, I love Mai Mihara so much and I only want the best for her.
Kite: Yeah, I feel like if she got the PCS that she deserved she should have been in second because she was in third by only about a point. I'm just so sad her perpetually because she has all of the potential to be a World medalist but she's currently the 4th best of the Japanese Ladies and they only have 3 spots.
Kat: Can they just send her to another country or something?
Kite: Can she compete for Canada? Can she rescue the Canadian Ladies field? I feel like that's something that should be looked into.
Evie: Mai, come skate for Australia. We'll take you!
Kite: Oh my gosh.
Evie: Speaking of another Japanese lady, we have to talk, unfortunately, about Kaori Sakamoto who sadly missed the podium here after a really brilliant Short Program which, as I said before, I think should have been in first.
Kat: She should have gotten like 75 at least.
Evie: It was beautiful. It was absolutely beautiful. The best that she's done that Short Program. But her Free Skate, yeah...
Kite: That was difficult to watch.
Kat: That was so rough! And especially because after she popped that double Axel you could see on her face she was like "Oh damn, I shouldn't have done that."
Evie: And that combo is just like a money jump for her. She nails that double Axel-triple toe-double toe so well in most competitions.
Kat: She would have been solidly in second if she'd landed it.
Evie: Yeah, and she had to do an emergency combo.
Kite: I mean good on her for pulling that out, especially since it was the last jump in her program. That she was able to make that a combo is pretty impressive quick thinking on her part. But she did lose about 8 points by popping the double Axel and then missing the combo and so ultimately she only missed the podium by 0.3 which just really sucks.
Kat: I was so sad, I thought I could get a flower crown on Kaori because I made one for her at Grand Prix Final and one for Four Continents and she didn't podium at both, so I'm very sad. But like how crazy is it that the depth in Japan is so incredible that their Nationals Champion didn't make the podium here and Rika, the only competition she didn't get gold at is at her domestic Nationals, right? At a domestic competition.
Kite: Yeah, Rika's the only Lady going into Worlds undefeated.
Kat: Undefeated internationally.
Kite: Internationally, yeah. But I think Kaori's going to be fine, I think she definitely has the grit to pull it back together and have that redemption skate at home as the reigning Japanese Champion. So I'm not terribly worried about her, as long as she can get that combo because she fell on it at Grand Prix Final too. So now I'm just side-eying it, like "You better not snake her!"
START: Shout Out of the Week
Kite: So, our shout out of the week goes to the female announcer at Four Continents who apparently was singularly incapable of pronouncing any skaters name correctly.
Kat: Oh my god, the one at the practice sessions was even worse. (Evie: Really?) I can't even explain to you how bad it was. It was like Team Koko and then Wang/Liu, I think one of the other Chinese teams too, and William Badaoui and Matilda Friend. Oh my goodness, those names! I should have recorded it. And before they announced Wang/Liu, the announcer messed up [Shiyue's] name so bad she started cringe laughing.
Evie: Oh my god. This is not what she deserves!
Kite: It's like funny up to a certain point and then it's just kind of like disrespectful to the skaters. You have one job as an announcer, and that's to get the names right. It's not asking a lot, like Mai Mihara and Tim Koleto are not hard names to pronounce.
Evie: I mean, I do find it funny that last year at Four Continents we had another "Tom Koleto" moment and now we're having it again here a year later.
Kite: Poor Tim.
Evie: I feel so sorry for Tim. But then we also had Mai Mihara, we had Misato [Komatsubara] - like how did they pronounce her last name?
Kite: They just gave up on it halfway through.
Evie: They gave it twenty more syllables. And then they also said "Shoe-y Wang" and I'm like "You could say Xinyu Liu right, why can't you say Shiyue?" (Kite: Yeah, right?) It's not that hard, guys!
Kite: Like "Rika Kihara"... it's literally like five syllables, come on.
Kite: Thank you for listening, we hope to see you again for our next episode which will be about John Coughlin and SafeSport.
Evie: If you want to get in touch with us, then please feel Free to contact us via our website inthelopodcast.com or on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook. You can find our episodes on Youtube, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify.
Kat: If you enjoy the show, and want to help support the team, then please consider making a donation to us on our ko-fi page, and we’d like to give a huge thank you to all the listeners who have contributed to our team thus far.
Kite: You can find the links to all our social media pages and our ko-fi on the website.
Evie: If you’re listening on iTunes, please consider leaving a rating and a review if you enjoyed the show. Thanks for listening, this has been Evie,
Kite: and Kite. See you soon!